It comes to you by email:
“I am Mr. Paul Agabi,” it says. “I am the personal attorney to Mr. Harold Cooper, a national of your country, who used to work with Exxon Oil Company in Nigeria. On the 21st of April, my client, his wife and their only child were involved in a car accident. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives.”
Amazingly enough, rich dead guy left behind millions of dollars—and your correspondent wants you to have it! If you’ll help Mr. Paul Agabi get those millions out of the country, using your bank account as a parking spot, he’ll share the dough with you.
So you get excited. You write back. Maybe you make an offer on a house in Connecticut.
But then a funny thing happens: Mr. Agabi asks you to send some money to him, to cover bribes to officials. It’s only a couple hundred bucks, so you send it.
A week later, there’s another problem—he needs another payment, this time to take care of taxes. You send it.
Then legal fees. Then other fees.
You will never get any money. You will be asked to send more, more, more money until you come to your senses and realize you’re being bilked. Though it has expanded beyond the country of Nigeria, it is still called the “Nigerian” or “419″ scam (named for the section of the Nigerian penal code it violates).
Yes, people still fall for the Nigerian scam. A lot of people. Commence mass forehead-slapping.